Midsummer Magic: The Best Music Festivals for Your Summer Vacation

World Music Day (La Fête de la Musique), a free “Make Music Day” type of festival celebrated especially in France’s streets on Midsummer Day every year, has inspired us to look for the biggest and loudest, the most renowned and most sophisticated summer festivals around the globe.

No matter if you prefer classical or early music, pop and rock or jazz — perhaps this post helps inspire some spontaneous folks to change their vacation schedule for the next few months and enjoy what is magic beyond all else: music.

For Traditionalists: The Salzburg Summer Festival

If you adore classical composers, particularly Mozart, there’s no way around attending the world’s most important festival for classical music at least once in your lifetime. Hosted annually by the picturesque Austrian city in July and August, it offers a variety of events from opera to concerts to stage plays.

Traditionally, the festival has often focused on operas by Mozart, Salzburg’s most famous son, as well as Richard Strauss. Though Mozart is still featured prominently in the matinée concerts and the obligatory performance of his Great Mass in C Minor, the festival organizers have apparently discovered their love of Baroque: in 2017, all of Claudio Monteverdi’s surviving operas will take center stage.

You prefer the spoken word to the most harmonious tune? The open-air performance of Everyman, a 20th-century take on medieval mystery and morality plays, might be worth watching. Although the allegory of the rich and selfish man saved by faith and mercy has a simple, almost naïve plot, the monumental backdrop of Salzburg Cathedral will send a shiver down the spine of even the most cynical theatergoer.

For History of Music Nerds: York Early Music Festival

If you think that the Salzburg Summer Festival should always highlight Monteverdi rather than Mozart, you might want to head to York from 7 July to 15 July. This English arts festival avoids such new-fangled composers as Beethoven or Brahms, let alone Ravel or Rachmaninoff. Instead, the venues all across town — including the glorious York Minster with its ornate stained glass windows — are mainly devoted to music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

This year, the festival program for the 40th anniversary includes a wide selection of period pieces, from Bach concerts to madrigals for viol and lute, from sacred choral arrangements from 15th-century Italy to worldly music from Baroque Venice.

I must admit that I’d personally have a very, very hard time to distinguish between Palestrina and Poulenc, but there’s one concert I’d dearly like to attend: in honor of the festival’s 40th birthday, they will be performing Thomas Tallis’ “Spem in Alium”, a polyphonic piece for 40 (!) different voice. Even a more or less tone-deaf person like me has almost been moved to tears by its harmonies.

For the Young and Young at Heart: Lollapalooza

I’ve noticed recently that I must be getting on in years: “glamping” (the upscale version of tent-living) sounds more attractive to me than camping. No longer do I long for the days when my parents finally allowed me to go off with friends to a festival and spend an entire weekend sunburned, dehydrated, hyperactive, sleep-deprived, mud-stained, and with ringing ears.

Wait — this sounds exactly like your idea of fun? Then you’ve got no time to lose! The famous Lollapalooza Festival has by now expanded from its original Chicago location to five different countries around the world. While the 2017 spring/autumn tours in the Southern Hemisphere — Argentina, Brazil, and Chile — are already a thing of the past, the summer concerts in Paris (22–23 July) and the US (3–6 August) still lie ahead.

You probably can’t make it and suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) on the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Lana del Rey, Muse or Tegan and Sara? Then September is your last chance. Berlin’s main acts — The Foo Fighters and Mumford & Sons — might even lure me to the stage in Hoppegarden. Provided the area has some space for comfy “glamping” vans.

For Jazz Fans: The Festival International de Montréal

If you can afford to head off to Canada on very short notice, lovers of all things jazz should make sure to touch down in Montréal next week. From 28 June to 8 July, the capital of Québec will host its tribute to this highly versatile genre for the 38th time.

Good news for those who have splurged on a plane ticket: plenty of the 600-odd concerts are free, giving lesser-known artists the chance to perform for the large festival audience. The wide range of acts isn’t only pretty numerous, but also highly diverse in style: a tribute to Miles Davis by a veteran trumpeter; a wild electro swing group; retro-Latin-classic-pop-jazz orchestra Pink Martini; fun jazz lessons for the younger audience members, or the “flamenco meets salsa meets Arab influences meets reggae meets Western pop” world music sounds of the Gipsy Kings…

All those music fans who are also movie buffs will appreciate the chance of watching recent hit musical La La Land accompanied by a live symphony orchestra or attending a sneak preview of Django, a biopic of legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. And let’s not forget that Montréal’s vibrant nightlife is just as much the stuff of legend as the stars of 100 years of jazz history.

Save the Date! Secret Solstice Festival

Despite its name, the 2017 edition of the Secret Solstice Festival was over even before Midsummer Day. But if you are longing to experience international as well as Icelandic rock and pop acts in the glare of the midnight sun, you should be looking forward to a trip to Iceland next June.

Where else could you listen to the big stars in Valhall (one of the larger stages) and go to an after-party in Hel(l) (the venue for some post-festival fun)? Góða skemmtun!

(Image credits: iStockphoto)

InterNations in June — Summer Days and Ramadan

June is all about sharing great food and quality time with other expats and global minds. Our members in the Northern Hemisphere love to spend their time in the sun enjoying the long summer days. As temperatures are rising in some of our communities, expats are heading outside for picnics, barbecues, and beach parties.

In our Muslim communities, Ramadan plays an important role this month. Those who fast often struggle to explain the Holy Month to other non-Muslim expats and locals in their host countries. Others who live in a predominately Muslim country but don’t fast themselves may have a hard time to adjust to the changed situation.

However, above all, Ramadan is about peace and unity and what better way is there to bring people together than to share a meal with your InterNations community?

Let’s Go Outside

The InterNations community in Prague hosted a fantastic barbecue on Friday, 9 June 2017. Aside from the delicious food that all guests got to enjoy on the terrace of Napa Bar, everyone had the chance to participate in a raffle to win two tickets to Rock for People, the Czech Republic’s biggest music festival.

InterNations Copenhagen partied like they do on Miami Vice. Their beach party on Saturday, 17 June 2017, was the perfect opportunity to dress up. Attendees could take impromptu lessons from a dance instructor, enjoy delicious street food, and just spend a great day outside.

Not ready to be done with barbecues and summer picnics in the park? Fortunately, we have quite a few amazing events coming up.

The Malmö Meet and Chat Group is celebrating Midsummer in Sweden on Friday, 23 June 2017. One of the biggest celebrations throughout the year, midsummer is best observed in the city’s Folketspark, one of the oldest park’s in the world. Why don’t you wear some flowers in your hair and join the crowd?

Com Fest is a unique festival in Columbus and perfect to interact with global minds and the locals. On Friday, 23 June 2017, the InterNations community will visit this local festival to enjoy the live music and local food, and to learn more about their new home abroad.

The Raleigh Community will get together on Saturday, 8 July 2017, to observe a very American tradition: the Independence Day potluck barbecue. Expats and global minds will meet at a local lake to cool off, enjoy some water activities, and share their favorite food. Partners and kids are welcome to join the fun.

Ramadan Mubarak — Iftar and Suhoor with InterNations

On Friday, 2 June 2017, InterNations Abu Dhabi met for a delightful Iftar dinner at Horizon Restaurant. Over a free welcome drink and delicious food, expats and global minds got to enjoy a relaxed evening together.

Our community in Dhaka hosted a rather luxurious Ramadan celebration on Thursday, 8 June 2017. Expats got together at Four Points by Sheraton, which is well known for its nice ambiance and excellent food; the perfect spot for an Iftar dinner with your favorite global minds.

The Dubai Socialize without Alcohol Group used the occasion to invite their members to a Suhoor Event. For the fifth year in a row, the group celebrated at Dubai’s popular Music Hall. For Ramadan, this venue is transformed into a Majlis-style setting to celebrate the spirit, the festivities, and the traditions of this month with great food and live music.

The Ajman Local Group enjoyed a Ramadan Iftar Buffet Dinner and Cruise on Wednesday, 14 June 2017. Starting from Ajman Marina, the ship sailed to the Mangrove at Al Zorah and back, offering an impressive buffet and a great setting for spending this time together.

A truly multicultural Iftar was just the right activity for the Doha Mystery Cheap Eats Group. Members met on Wednesday, 14 June 2017, at Copacabana Restaurant for a Brazilian Churrascaria. Between Ramadan sweets and Brazilian meat dishes, the group had a fantastic Iftar dinner.

 

Are you attending an Iftar this month, or are you meeting your fellow global minds at a barbecue by the beach? Tell us in the comments.

Image credits: InterNations

InterNations Insider Tips: Marvel at Beautiful Muscat

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck shares his experiences in Oman, where he explored the capital city Muscat during a community visit.

The Grand Mosque: An Architectural Masterpiece

With fewer very tall high-rise buildings dotting the capital’s skyline than in, for example, the neighboring UAE, some other striking landmarks will inevitably stand out. The remarkable Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of them.

No wonder: While the Ladies’ Prayer Hall “only” has the capacity to hold 750 worshippers, the main musalla can accommodate up to 6,500 people.

Not only does the main hall contain a gigantic Persian prayer rug, but it also features the world’s largest chandelier. Fun fact: The latter is actually “made in Germany”, by a company based in the small town of Stockdorf near Munich — less than a 30-minute drive from the InterNations head office!

I was happy to visit the mosque in the early morning — non-Muslim visitors are allowed to enter every day (except for Friday) from 8:00 to 11:00, and the site would definitely be more crowded later on. Naturally, you are expected to dress appropriately and conservatively. For both men and women, this means long pants and covered shoulders, and women are required to cover their hair as well.

The mosque is a stunning site, with colourful patterns that run through the whole building. You can walk the grounds and gardens that stretch around it to admire the architecture from all sides.

Muttrah Souk: Be Prepared to Bargain

Thanks to Oman’s proximity to the sea and its trading routes, Muttrah Souk — one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world — is a beautiful symbol of the country’s past. It’s probably the most famous attraction to visit in the country, due to the array of goods they have to offer.

It’s an interesting mixture of an authentic Omani souk and a bit of a touristy market for cruise ship passengers, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you have time to browse all the souvenirs booths and local shops. The combined smell of incense burners and spices made this visit quite memorable.

Like in many souks, always make sure you’re prepared to haggle! As many shop owners increase the price for the never-ending stream of cruise tourists, you can always try for a lower price. I found that the store owners weren’t particularly pushy and were usually prepared to go down in price.

If you’re looking to taste the history of the country and have a sweet tooth, too, try some Omani halwa. This is a traditional Omani dessert made in different flavours. I got to taste the halwa with honey, and it was delicious!

Bait Al Zubair Museum: Oman’s Past

If you want to dig deeper into the rich history of Oman, make sure to visit the Bait Al Zubair Museum. It’s well within the city limits, situated in the older parts of Muscat, and you can find out all about where famous Omani traditions come from.

The collection displays Omani culture both from the past and the present, spanning entire centuries and millennia. Each building showcases a different part of the country’s cultural history, such as its famous silver and gold jewellery, historical weapons (especially the khanjar, the hand-crafted ceremonial dagger), period dress, and household items.

The artefacts allow tourists to understand more about the Omani lifestyle, but the living history of Muscat also gets its due in temporary exhibitions by local artists. My personal favorite, though? The Maritime Gallery, a tribute to Oman’s seafaring roots, which will make you feel a bit like Sinbad the Sailor.

They also exhibit the first European map of Muscat, which was very impressive to see. I found it particularly interesting to learn that the map Terrae Oman was produced by an 18-century geographer by walking (!) the distances of the vast country and recording his paces.

Pebbled Beaches: Escaping the City

Even if your stay in the capital is rather short, you might find some time to wander on the beaches along the coast of Muscat. On my way to visit the wadi — between Sur and Muscat — I stumbled upon a beautiful pebbled beach.

The beach is spread over a few kilometres, so finding a spot for a rest is no trouble, though there’s not a lot of shelter from the sun. The water is very clear, and I’d even been told I might have a chance of to see turtles hatching their eggs. Unfortunately, that did not happen, but I immensely enjoyed the serenity after a busy day in the city.

A friendly local told me that if you have more time, you should definitely check out other beaches in Oman. If you want to escape the rush of Muscat, you can drive further south, where you’ll find immense sand dunes and flocks of flamingos. It’s not that well known among tourists, so it won’t probably be packed with people.

Snorkeling is supposed to be amazing in the pristine waters! You can rent a four-wheel drive and enjoy the rough coastlines with stunning views of sea.

Wadis: An Off-Road Adventure

The Arabic word for valley is wadi, and Oman’s wadis are very popular sites to visit outside of Muscat. The particular one that I visited was Wadi Shab, in a small town called Tiwi. With its turquoise pools and waterfalls, it was simply a must-see on my bucket list.

The valley itself is only accessible by boat, so you either need to book a boat trip in advance or shill out 1 OMR for one of the local guides to help you cross the river. After the short boat ride, you have to hike for approximately 3km, but with the stunning views and the relatively easy accessible road it was just perfect.

The hike along the wadi was beautiful, and if you want to — and bring along some swimwear and beach sandals — you can even end it with a swim in a cave. I was happy to be there in spring, as the temperature was still comfortable: it can go up to 40 degrees in summer!

Although my stay was short, I would definitely describe it as “short but sweet”, like Omani halwa! I feel like I got to experience Omani culture to the fullest, and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery that surrounds the capital.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Founder’s Diary: Muscat

InterNations Founder & Co-CEO Malte Zeeck returns to the Persian Gulf for a brief stint in Oman, attending an official event in our Muscat Community.

After I’d had the opportunity to explore both Bahrain and Qatar last year, it was back to “1001 Nights” for me this spring. In the capital city of Oman, one of the most important trading hubs between East and West since times immemorial, there’s now a flourishing InterNations Community with about 15,000 members.

Two of the Muscat Ambassadors — Rebecca, a New Zealand tour guide, and Fazlul, an events manager from Bangladesh — had invited me to the official event at The Lazy Lizard, the lush open-air restaurant and poolside bar of the Radisson Blue Hotel downtown.

A New Pre-Event Format: The Community Team Talk

Before the actual event started, we’d organized a Community Team Talk for our InterNations Volunteers (coming soon: a more in-depth report on this new format), and I was very impressed by the relaxed, familial atmosphere in the Muscat Community.

It’s our nearly 30 volunteers — three InterNations Ambassadors and 26 Group Consuls — who help to make expat life in Muscat a great experience. About half of them took some time out of their busy schedules to attend this session on a Wednesday night.

There was even a little treat for them in store: when I tried to invite them for a round of drinks to thank them for their commitment, the waiters made a bit of an exception for us and bent the rules about not serving alcohol in hotel meeting rooms. Cheers!

The introduction round gave me lots of insights into our active community life in Oman. For example, we currently have about two dozen InterNations Groups in Muscat, from “Life’s a Beach” and “The Great Outdoors” to the Desi Vibes Group to business networking meet-ups.

I hope I could provide them with some valuable insights into daily life and work at the InterNations head office in return: not only did I tell them about the founding and the company history, but it was particularly important to me to share our vision for the future — to be every expat’s best friend — and to ask them for their own suggestions and ideas.

Unsurprisingly, the volunteers were mostly interested in any and all features we are working on right now to make organizational matters easier for them: the brand-new guest list app, our feedback tool for events and activities, and the newly opened InterNations Volunteer Groups.

A Heart-Felt Thank You to Honor Our Volunteers

In addition to keeping them up to date about the development and growth of InterNations, I especially wanted to say a heart-felt “thank you” for the tremendous energy and creativity they put into hosting all these great activities: every one of them is a new chance for our members in Muscat to meet in person, to get to know each other, and to share their hobbies and interests with other expats and global minds.

For a few especially active volunteers, we’d prepared an “honorary diploma” to recognize their commitment to the InterNations Muscat Community. However, our impromptu award ceremony was cut a bit short since the event had just started and the rush outside to the pool bar began.

On that warm spring night, the weather was just perfect: temperatures were high enough to celebrate outside in the evening, but hadn’t become as unbearably hot as in the summer months.

The InterNations Muscat Event

The Muscat Community Team had set up a great entrance to the event, with an administration desk, a tablet check-in counter, and a Hollywood-style photo wall, which looked very professional.

After Fazlul had introduced me to the friendly crowd of around 200 guests, I seized the opportunity to say a few words of welcome and to thank our volunteers once again for everything they do for the Muscat Community.

Afterwards, it was time to enjoy the party and to talk to as many of our members as I could. The most memorable story of the evening was the definitely one I heard from Julie, a South African expat, who met her husband Andrew from the UK at one of our events and who told me how they eventually got married.

On the following day, I got my first glimpse of Muscat’s sights: Rebecca was so kind as to drive me around on a guided tour of the city. It was amazing to get this offer from an expert who does this for a living — thanks again for the wonderful opportunity, Rebecca!

You can find more information on worthwhile sights in and outside of Muscat in my InterNations Insider Tips for Oman.

(Image credit: Fazlul Karim & Malte Zeeck)

Which Language Should You Choose to Study Next?

Expats are both avid globetrotters and an impressively polyglot bunch. In last year’s Expat Insider survey, our respondents revealed their linguistic skills: 88% of expatriates are at least bilingual, and 62% speak two or more foreign languages. Nearly half (48%) also consider their local language proficiency to be fairly or very good.

True language lovers probably don’t enjoy resting on their laurels, though: knowing a couple of foreign languages might not be enough once they have whetted their linguistic appetite. Considering there are up to 7,000 languages across the globe, prospective learners are slightly spoiled for choice.

How do you decide which language to tackle next? There are plenty of reasons for cracking open a textbook or downloading an app, but the following might offer some pointers for the indecisive language enthusiast.

The Pragmatic Choice

If you are in the same situation as those Expat Insider respondents who admit to speaking the local language only a little (29%) or not at all (12%), your next step is obvious. The longer you are going to stay, the more opportunities to practice you’ll have.

This is your chance to finally go grocery-shopping at the local farmer’s market without resorting to pointing and mime, or to have some vague idea of what the angry-sounding train driver is barking through the underground’s loudspeaker system!

Even if your local language skills are pretty solid, you might be planning a trip to a neighboring country or different region where you don’t speak the language. Granted, most people are usually friendly towards hapless, linguistically confused strangers.

They are frequently even friendlier, though, if you make an effort to say “how much for a cup of coffee?” or “where’s the bus stop?” in their own language — even if you may not understand their effusive answers.

Story time: In the pre-smartphone era, I asked a kind elderly lady for the way to my hostel in very bad Japanese. To this day, I have no idea what she was telling me.

However, she closed down her little flower shop for 15 minutes, took me by the hand, and guided me to the hostel’s doorstep. Perhaps she would have done this for all lost gaijin girls, but I’d like to think my bumbling attempts at Japanese were a bit of an ice-breaker.

The Easy Choice

You would like to keep your brain active with some mental gymnastics, but don’t have much time or are easily frustrated by lack of progress? You need the linguistic equivalent of signing up for the gym next to the office and going for an exercise program that plays to your strengths!

Basically, you want a language that has something in common with your mother tongue or another language you are already fluent in. It also shouldn’t involve those parts of studying that are very labor-intensive or don’t come naturally to you.

When I was thinking about getting back into language learning, I wasn’t sure where to start. So I browsed the online catalog of the MVHS (Munich Center of Further Education), which offers an amazing range of classes, from Arabic to Vietnamese.

A friend of mine was dabbling in the MVHS Mandarin courses at that time, but I was very sure Chinese wasn’t for me. First of all, I didn’t want to memorize 6,500 common hànzì just to read a newspaper article.

Second, all Chinese languages are tonal ones (like as many as 70% of all world languages): they use pitch — high or low sounds — to convey meaning. As someone who had occasionally struggled with English listening comprehension, I didn’t want to confuse (mother) with (horse) or mix up (fish) and (region).

If you are facing a similar dilemma, language families are an easy way out: find a foreign language (e.g. Spanish) that is close(ish) to one you are fluent in (e.g. French). They often share grammatical structures or related vocabulary. That’s how I settled on Norwegian.

While the Scandinavian languages split from the ancestors of modern German on the family tree a long while ago, they still have similarities enough. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that vits (‘joke’) means Witz in German, no kidding.

I’d wanted to go for Danish first, but that’s where the listening comprehension came in again. Sorry, Danes — I do adore Copenhagen, but (standard) Norwegian is so much easier to understand!

The Passionate Choice

Now that we have covered the practical language students and the lazy ones (like me), there’s still the romantics. No, I’m not talking about learning your spouse’s native tongue — although that’s the most beautiful reason of all. Some people simply excel at acquiring new language skills if they feel true passion for the country it’s spoken in or the history and (pop) culture it’s connected with.

If you can identify with that, stop wondering if it’s “useful” to devote all that time and energy to your latest hobby. Maybe you will never live in that particular country, or never get the chance to use your skills to boost your career. Sometimes, the journey is its own reward.

I once knew a guy — a bright grad student with a psychology degree, but no particular interest in foreign languages — who suddenly decided to teach himself Finnish. Yes, that language whose 15 grammatical cases make German noun inflections look like a piece of cake. Its grammar is the very opposite of the KISS (“Keep It Simple, Stupid!”) rule.

Why would he do this to himself? A Finnish girlfriend? An exciting PhD program at Helsinki University? The actual answer was … Finnish metal bands.

He was such an ardent fan of the metal music scene up north that all the effort seemed completely worth it. For someone whose song collection included titles like “Pitch Black Emotions”, he bore his language-related struggles with cheerful equanimity.

In brief: there’s no “right” or “wrong” reason to learn a new language. Just think about which motivation resonates with you most and use it to make your choice!

Millions of Reasons

How many reasons are there for moving abroad? Perhaps as many as 57,000,000! That astounding eight-digit figure is the estimated number of expatriates in the world. Their specific backgrounds and reasons for making the big move are just as multifaceted as the globe itself.

Thanks to our Expat Insider study, based on over 14,000 respondents from around the world, we have identified a variety of “expat types”: each has their particular reasons for relocating. Some were simply practical and others were profoundly emotional.

Unsurprisingly, the prospect of great employment opportunities motivates a large percentage of expatriates. Other reasons for moving abroad include the desire for a better quality of life, a comfortable salary, promising career options, as well as an international education.

Which Type of Expat Do You Identify With?

The foreign assignee is the “classic” expat — a corporate employee, often in a senior or management position, who was sent abroad by their company. There are also those who go abroad on their own initiative, to study and gain some intercultural experience — and simply stay on after getting their degree. Others are headhunted by a foreign employer for their professional skills, or their entrepreneurial spirit prompts them to open their own business in another country.

Of course, expat life isn’t all about new and exciting career opportunities or a top-notch degree. For one in four expatriates, it’s actually about love or family.

The romantics tend to follow their heart across oceans and borders to build a new life with the person they love. Similarly, traveling spouses choose to relocate for the sake of their partner’s career, while some expats simply long to be closer to other family members, like adult children or aging parents.

Last but not least, it’s an incurable case of wanderlust that drives the adventurous type to leave hearth and home behind. They see moving abroad as a personal challenge, a journey of self-discovery: along the way, they explore other countries and cultures, travel the world, or even settle in their dream destination.

What’s Your Story?

But there’s much more to expat living than abstract types and statistics! To celebrate reaching 1 million likes on Facebook— sadly, we haven’t reached 57 million quite yet — we asked our followers why exactly they packed their suitcase and set out for the unknown. You can hear some of their individual stories in our video, from running Dubai’s very first ice-cream van to meeting the love of their life on vacation in Mexico. A heart-felt thank you to everyone who shared their personal expat story with us!

And what’s yours? Can you identify with their motivations from our video, or would you like to add your unique reason? 1 million and counting…!

(Video credit: InterNations; image credit: iStockphoto)

Cultural Diversity: Business as Usual at InterNations

Cultural Diversity Day — or rather World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, as the UN calls it — takes place annually on 21 May. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between cultures to work towards peace, stability, and development. Overcoming cultural differences and connecting global minds is one of the most important motivators for us as well. In fact, the diversity of our communities is precisely what makes them so great.

This month, we would like to shed some light on the many ways in which our communities around the world celebrate cultural diversity and bring people from all over the world together.

Cinco de Mayo

Although Cinco de Mayo is often mistaken for Mexico’s national holiday, it is not. Instead, it commemorates the Battle of Puebla and the unlikely victory of the Mexican over the French troops. That being said, Cinco de Mayo is still a very popular holiday, which is mostly celebrated far beyond the Mexican borders.

Some of our communities also got together this month to celebrate this holiday InterNations style. On Friday, 5 May, our community in Jakarta met at an authentic Mexican restaurant to enjoy some cool drinks, participate in a lucky draw, and just have fun all around. The highlight of the evening was the live band and the chance to get on stage and perform a song.

Somewhat late to the party, members in Goiania have the chance to celebrate Cinco the Mayo on Friday, 19 May. Aside from great food and cool cervezas, there is the great company of other global minds and the chance to learn a thing or two about Mexican culture.

The Historic Old Market District with its cobblestone streets and little taverns is the destination of our Omaha Community’s next event. On Wednesday, 25 May, they will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, as well as Mexican culture and heritage, at a great local restaurant.

Celebrating Culture at Home and Abroad

Our groups don’t just wait around for Cultural Diversity Day. They always have a reason to celebrate different cultures, traditions, and languages from around the world. In Istanbul, for instance, our French Language & Culture Group is dedicated to everything French. On Friday, 12 May, group members met at a charming bistro for an apéro dinatoire. They chatted in French over a glass of wine and enjoyed the evening together.

The Gateway of Culture Group in Rome met on Saturday, 13 May, to explore the culinary foundations of Italian culture: grapes and olives. There were a lot of smaller events and conferences that took place at the Etruscan National Museum Villa Giulia that day, including a seminar on wine and olive oil, and a tasting banquet that allowed the group members to get to know more about Italian cuisine.

Those looking for a more active approach, should join the Zurich Indomania Group on Sunday, 28 May, for a Bollywood Dance work-out. All group members are invited to celebrate the spirit of Bollywood together, but keep in mind that a basic fitness level is required for this activity.

The Vienna Painting and Drawing Group is going to take a more theoretical approach to culture and cultural diversity. On Thursday, 1 June, the group will make a cultural map to explore their cultural experiences. This creative activity comes with a small wine tasting.

Our Classical Concerts Group in Hong Kong will gather on Friday, 2 June, to enjoy a performance by the Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France. With classic tunes from Debussy to Ravel, the performance will bring France to Hong Kong.

And now for a little bit of history: the Paris Italian Culture Group will attend the exposition “Ciao Italia!” on Italian immigrants in France and learn about a century of cultural contribution. Afterwards, they will go out for a drink and exchange their own stories of arriving in France as a foreigner.

A Bit Out of the Ordinary

One thing that makes us proud is that all our communities celebrate the cultures that influence them in their own special way. InterNations Munich, our home base, hosted a Latin party on Thursday, 20 April. “La vida es una fiesta” was the motto, as expats and global minds met at a hot new club and danced all night to Latin tunes.

The community in Cincinnati dedicates each month to another holiday, country, or culture. Their event in May focused on the culture and heritage of Japan. Event attendees got together for a relaxed dinner at a sushi restaurant and got to know each other better.

Our community on the Canary Islands is getting ready to celebrate Canarian Day on Saturday, 27 May. The purpose of this holiday is to honor the culture and diversity of the whole archipelago. Members will meet at a traditional restaurant in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to enjoy delicious local food, talk about their life on the islands, and simply enjoy each other’s company.

 

No matter if you have celebrated the national holiday of your home abroad or simply spent time with your international friends, let us know how you celebrate cultural diversity this May.

Image credits: 1-3) InterNations, 4) Pexels, 5 + 6) InterNations.

Changing the World One Day at a Time

In May, we get the chance to celebrate one of our favorite holidays — the International Day of Cultural Diversity! One could say that this is a holiday based on a philosophy that our wonderful Changemakers Consuls practice every day — global minds and charitable souls, these volunteers bring different cultures, nationalities, and people together for a good cause every month.

From Washington to Beijing, and from Doha to Rome, Changemakers across the planet have posted some truly marvelous activities this month. So, in the spirit of charity and cultural friendship, please don’t hesitate to get involved!

‘V is for Victory of Love and Compassion!’

In Moscow, 14 InterNations members joined Consul Elena Urbanovich at a retirement home in the Tver Region. The pictures from this activity are nothing if not heartwarming! The members got to know the inhabitants of the retirement home, discussed their lives and stories, and also brought some brilliant gifts to celebrate the day and help the people. The activity was not only diverse in terms of age, though, as five different nationalities were represented.

 

Volunteer Power

The Berlin Changemakers Group hosted an amazingly inventive activity, bringing together members who have always wanted to volunteer and NGOs who need volunteers. Organized by Alejandra Müller, it was a wonderful night: our members did not only get to learn more about the many benefits of volunteering, but also how easy it is to get involved. A whole host of NGOs and charitable organizations attended the event, including Vostel, Berliner Tafel, UNICEF, Visioneers, Pflege Engagement, and Helpling. This was a truly marvelous idea, and we are sure it will prove to be inspiring for our members in Berlin, but also for other Changemakers around the world.

 

Football for Peace

This month, Mirawati Piliang in Jakarta posted a wonderful activity that captures the very essence of what the International Day of Cultural Diversity is all about — Football for Peace. The activity invites people to take part in an event organized by the Uni Papau, which aims to help the younger generation of Jakarta to stay away from violence and drugs through football. The activity takes place on Friday, 19 May, and runs for two days. Members from three different countries have already signed up. We can’t wait to see their wonderful pictures!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved with the InterNations Changemakers this month. If we make each day a little bit better, then someday there hopefully won’t be any bad ones left!

Next month is World Environnment Day, and we are excited to see what you have planned for this occassion.

 

(Image credits: InterNations, Pixabay)

Breaking Out of the Expat Bubble: 5 Steps to Connecting with the Local Culture

Any expat knows how tempting it is to stick around with your fellow newcomers, but if you want to fully connect with the local culture, it can be difficult to break out of the so-called “expat bubble”.

Making friends with other expats is perfectly understandable. Arriving in a new place can be daunting, so it is natural to gravitate towards people who are going through a similar adjustment process. But if you have moved abroad for the culture or the language, or to meet people from your current country of residence, you may be looking to expand beyond the expat circle.

Here are a few tips to help you go from newbie to native!

Learn the Language

Maybe the local residents speak your language, or at least a lingua franca such as English, but nothing beats communicating with people in their mother tongue. There are endless benefits to being able to speak the local language, starting with the day-to-day uses.

No price can be placed on understanding the names of products in the supermarket or reading a menu without cracking out a dictionary. Even picking up the basics will help you stand out from the tourists.

If you already speak the language with some degree of fluency, you can still make efforts to understand the local lexicon better. Try listening out for any dialect or accent commonly used in your new home. Even if you cannot speak it yourself, recognizing the accent of your area can help you spot locals. Noticing the linguistic particularities — and peculiarities — of your area will also win you real brownie points with your new neighbors.

As Nelson Mandela so quotably said, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Join In with Local Festivals

A lot of major customs have become fairly international, but every area has its own individual celebrations to brush up on.

While the festivities might be normal for local people, observing these celebrations can be fascinating for recent arrivals. Whether it’s the sinister-looking Austrian Krampuslauf, the dark history behind the UK’s Guy Fawkes Night, or Japan’s hanami (cherry blossom celebrations), these kinds of events are definitely worth checking out.

There is always the risk of looking like a tourist, turning up without the correct traditional outfit, or being the only one silently mouthing along to the songs that everyone else has known since childhood. But don’t worry about that!

On the whole people will be friendly and enthusiastic that you are trying to find out more about their culture. Besides, you can always play the “confused foreigner” card to get a bit of leeway and an explanation of what exactly is going on.

Take Off Your Headphones

On your morning commute, you might want to shield yourself off from the world, drowning out the unfamiliar environment with a few songs from home or a podcast in a language you can actually understand. But it’s worth unplugging your MP3 player once in a while.

Overhearing conversations, or even just the local equivalent to “mind the gap”, will make you feel much more familiar with your new city. Listen out for the announcement of each station. It’s a quick and easy way to perfect your pronunciation of local place names on your way to work.

Entering into a bit of harmless people-watching can also teach you a lot about the culture of your new country or city. The way other passengers talk to each other or the etiquette of giving up your seat can tell you a lot about how people interact.

You never know, you might even end up talking to some of your fellow commuters and enjoying a bit of small talk along the way!

Keep Up to Date with Local News

Your trusty news source from home might still be the best place to stay informed on current affairs, but taking an interest in the local paper or radio station is invaluable. If you want to blend in with the locals, you are better off knowing about the controversy surrounding the ongoing roadworks in town or the increase in daycare fees, rather than being well versed in the ebb and flow of international politics.

Try to follow local politics and read up on the issues affecting your area, too. You will easily find someone to talk to about these topics. If it’s about where they live, it will matter to them, and they will be only too willing to discuss it with an outsider.

Watch the TV Shows Everyone is Talking About

Even if you think it’s rubbish, local television is worth tuning in to. Whether it is a terrible reality TV show or a dodgy weekly talent contest — if people are talking about it, start watching it.

In Germany, the format for compulsory viewing is a crime series called Tatort, with a different city playing host to a murder investigation nearly every Sunday night. If you know the difference between the Tatort teams from Munster and Munich, you will fit right in, even if you would really rather be watching your own trashy TV shows from home.

It is great to bond with your fellow expats, but it is always worth trying to get to know the culture of your new country a little better. Most people are welcoming to newcomers, so just dive in and see what you can learn about your new home!

Katie Costello is a German and politics student at the University of Exeter, currently working for InterNations as an intern in the Editorial Office. She likes speaking German and is enjoying the laid-back Bavarian lifestyle in Munich.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)

Words, Words, Words: World Book Day (Not Only) for Expats

Bibliophiles worldwide will probably know that 23 April — the highly symbolic date that both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died back in 1616 — marks World Book Day, a global celebration of literacy and literature.

Though readers aren’t necessarily known to be particularly raucous revelers, we have some ideas for everyone who’d like to join that party: expats, here’s how you can observe the occasion with an international twist!

1) Read a book from your current country of residence.

Let’s start with the obvious: the next time you are looking for some entertainment to spice up your commute, read a book from your adopted country. In the age of free reading apps, owning a smartphone means you have no excuse, as long as you ignore the lure of Tetris, The Sims, or Super Mario Run for a while.

The first level of this challenge consists of picking up any book by a local author — for example, in your favorite genre. For me, historical romances with feisty heroines or gory crime novels involving serial killers usually do the trick. You can work up all your way to “boss level” — reading a famous classic from your destination’s literary canon.

Expats living in China, good luck with the Four Great Classical Novels! The Romance of the Three Kingdoms alone features a word count of 800,000: your next few years of commuting should be covered…

2) Join an expat book club.

If you don’t want to be a solitary bookworm anymore, joining a local book club is the easiest way of enjoying a good book and making new friends abroad. In expat communities worldwide, book clubs are plentiful, including on InterNations.

A brief look at InterNations Groups in various cities reveals the wide range of works that our members are currently discussing: from best-selling page-turners like Gone Girl to popular non-fiction like Sapiens, a “bracingly unsentimental history of humankind” (quoth the New Yorker); from German authors like Hans Fallada (Alone in Berlin) to Kenyan writers like Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Petals of Blood), there’s bound to be something for every taste!

If there’s no book club in your neighborhood yet — or if you don’t like their reading list — you could also set up your own. Reaching out to fellow expatriates and organizing a joint activity yourself will help you get in touch with even more people. Time to spread the word!

3) Put some travel writing on your reading list.

The most suitable choice for an expat book club is surely a book written by another expat or avid traveler. Travel writing is a literary genre of its own, appealing to our insatiable curiosity for the unknown, the blank spaces on imaginary maps. (“Here be dragons”, they usually say.)

Though Herodotus set out to write a history of the ancient world, becoming the “Father of History” as well as anthropology, his nine-volume Histories is also a fanciful bit of travel writing: translator Tom Holland affectionately calls it a “great shaggy-dog story”. Among other colorful anecdotes, the Greek’s detailed account of the gold-digging giant ants of India might be a case in point.

Fancy something slightly more modern to explore other countries and cultures from your comfy armchair? There are entire bookshops dedicated to travel guides and literature, such as the aptly named Stanley & Livingstone in The Hague or Stanford’s, a veritable London institution.

4) Support local booksellers in your adopted home.

Speaking of bookstores: every now and then, get out and about to purchase the next item on your reading list! Online shopping is awfully convenient, and I do consider e-readers one of the greatest contributions to civilization. However, browsing the shelves is a fun pastime that supports independent booksellers in the bargain.

Even if you don’t speak the local language (yet), don’t panic! Quite a few independent brick-and-mortar shops specialize in foreign language publications and vie with the online competition for customers: they often serve as venues for literary events and meeting points for the expat community.

The most famous example is arguably Shakespeare & Company on the Left Bank of the Seine, right across from Notre-Dame de Paris. Apart from, well, selling books, it runs a non-commercial reading library, organizes creative writing workshops, supports literacy programs in developing countries, and hosts readings by such high-profile authors as Jeanette Winterson, Zadie Smith, or Siri Hustvedt.

5) Go on a literary pilgrimage.

In case that shopping doesn’t match your idea of “getting out and about”, there are other great ways of getting to know your new home through books. Instead of taking a run-of-the-mill guided tour of the city, how about going on a walk with a literary theme?

Here in Munich, some guides conjure up the bohemian life of Schwabing’s writers and artists around 1900, while other places focus on their most famous works or authors: you can follow in the footsteps of Thomas Mann’s German merchant dynasty from Buddenbrooks in the Hanseatic City of Lübeck, or stroll through the streets of Bath alongside Jane Austen.

Planning a “literary pilgrimage” could also be an inspiration for your next day trip or vacation. I must confess that Prince Edward Island, Canada, is mostly on my “bucket list” because it’s home to my beloved childhood heroine, Anne Shirley. Bring on Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, I say.

(Image credit: iStockphoto)